The continuing series of “a Grace Disguised” by Jerry Sittser with a reflection to how it relates to my loss.
“Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.” – Frrederick Buechner
For the days, months and weeks after Brittany’s death I found as if my life had been put on pause. Or maybe a better description would be to say that I had been put on pause, as it seemed like life was passing me by and I couldn’t figure out how to get back in it. I’ve used the analogy before that life seemed like a merry-go-round and I was either trying to figure out how to get off, or get back on.
In this chapter of Sittser’s book, he touches several topics and I find that it is necessary show you, my readers, what thoughts and feelings run through the mind of someone who has lost something or someone. For if you don’t get this, understand this, you will not be able to grow yourself, as a person traveling through the journey with someone.
First Sittser shows us how life is like a motion picture. Although like a motion picture, life is like a series of snap shots put together and move quickly so that you do not see the break, just a flow of frames that make the movie. Slow them down and you can see the individual photos. I found that to an interesting viewpoint, as I too found myself staring at photos of moments I had remembered of Brittany, but the story seemed vague and the captions were missing. I liken it to be something like a flashback to a moment, random and without much forethought.
At first in the early days of my loss, I would look longingly at those pictures and want that life back. I longed for what was and I didn’t want anything to do with where I was standing. I would fall to my knees and just wail at the prospect of being in a life without my daughter. The photos were a constant reminder that I had lost so much and that the future didn’t hold much interest to me. Life for me as Sittser so adequately described it by the title of this chapter “A Sudden Halt To Business As Usual”. He couldn’t have said it any better.
Over time I have rearranged, put away, taken back out the many photos I had around of Brittany. I spent many months putting together a memory book of her life. In doing so I feel I have created a “story” if you will, her story in photos. Some days I can look through that memory book and enjoy them. Laugh at some of them. Then there are days like now that I can’t bear to look at them. It’s as if my heart is breaking all over again. When will that get better – I really don’t know.
Sittser also talks about regret and how it can plague you during your grieving process. I spent an incredible amount of time in the “what if” stage. What if I had been more vocal about getting her more treatment, better doctors, screamed a little louder, demanded more. I was killing myself with regret for many months. I have to say that my daughter’s nurse Jennifer who was with us the entire night said something to me that I have held onto to this day and it does give me some comfort. In the moments after Brittany had passed and I was in the room alone with her, I said to Jennifer, “if I had only screamed a little louder at her doctors to do more months ago, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.” She said to me, “Malissa, you did more for your daughter over her lifetime, than most. Brittany has been like family here, we all knew her and you. You didn’t do anything wrong – you were the best mother I know”. So today as the tears flow I know I did what I could. That I did what was within my control. Everything else I have to let go of.
Living with regret can stifle your progress and healing. As Sittser says “Regret causes us to repeat a litany of “if onlys”….Regret keeps the wounds of loss from healing, putting us in a perpetual state of guilt.” I’ve lived there long enough. So today I am going to shred all of her medical history documents. I’ve been holding on to them because at some point I was going to sue her doctors and the ambulance company and I probably would’ve won. They were negligent. But that is not who I am. I have forgiven them, I now have to forgive myself.
“This destruction of the soul represents the tragedy of what I call the “second death,” and it can be a worse tragedy than the first. The death that comes through loss of spouse, children, parents, health, jobs, marriage, childhood, or any other kind is not the worst kind of death there is. Worse still is the death of the spirit, the death that comes through guilt, regret, bitterness, hatred, immorality, and despair.”
At some point, as Sittser points out we have to decide whether or not to allow these destructive emotions to conquer us. This is the turning point, I believe, in the grief journey. But what I find interesting is that it just doesn’t happen once. I can come back again and again and you have to be ready for it. Although I have made a choice to move forward in my life, to take ownership of my destiny, I still battle the bad days. I still find days when I just don’t want to be here. When I just look up to God and say why – why did you take the life I knew and my daughter whom I loved beyond words.
I haven’t yet, nor do I expect to get an answer, but I do know this: my life has to be a living testimony that God puts us here for a reason. We have a purpose and it is His job to make sure we get there, however it is our job to listen and follow. I still believe my purpose is to continue to show that you can recover and have a good life even in the midst of tragedy, loss and that it is still ok to stop and remember your loved ones, to talk about them as they are an important part of your history.
My future depends on me and how I choose to live it. I don’t want to have come this far only to live an ordinary life. I want to make a difference, not sure how or when, but at the end of my days I want to know God will be able to say to me “well done my good and faithful servant – well done”.
until next time